Despite deal in Ramsey Co., Minneapolis still considering Metrodome site planby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — The Minneapolis City Council still is expected to weigh in on a stadium proposal, even though the Vikings announced their support Tuesday for a Ramsey County site for a new stadium.
Legislators, including at least four in Ramsey County, are skeptical, if not opposed outright. And state legislators may prefer the less-expensive Minneapolis plan that calls for a new stadium on the Metrodome site. But the proposal will need the support of the Minneapolis City Council.
The Minneapolis proposal, supported by Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council president Barb Johnson, raises $195 million of the nearly $900 million stadium through a combination of new and expanded taxes.
The city doesn't have the authority to raise the taxes on its own, so the legislature will need to introduce a bill to grant the power to the city. The bill will likely allow the city to act without putting the tax hikes in front of voters — which when it comes to public funds for stadiums is mandated by the city charter.
Minneapolis city officials say it's also possible the legislation could include a way to avoid council approval, but a spokesman for Rybak said the mayor wants the council to vote.
MPR News called all 13 council members for comment, but only a few have been willing to talk about the Vikings proposal.
Second Ward council member Cam Gordon said he'll vote no on the proposal because he doesn't support public funding for private sports teams.
"If we're going to get creative about raising new taxes, there's a long list of things that I think we need to be investing in," Gordon said.
Gordon said the city has enough trouble maintaining enough firefighters, infrastructure and supporting neighborhoods.
Gordon said he also doesn't like the plan because it would likely circumnavigate a voter referendum on the tax hikes. The proposal is not popular with many who live in his ward, and he said all the constituent emails he's received so far are against the stadium proposal.
Seven council members are needed to approve the plan. Gordon said he doesn't know which way the majority of council members are leaning, but at this moment the vote is close.
"It's hard to say. It's kind of unpredictable what the votes are going to be sometimes until the very moment they're taken," he said.
A few council members say they're on the fence about the proposal. Council member John Quincy of the 11th Ward said he likes the proposal's plan to reduce property taxes. But said he'd like to see the plan rely less on taxpayer funds and be more user-fee driven by people who are actually participating in a multi-use stadium activity.
"I would see it in ticket prices or in parking related to those fees paid for by the people who are benefitting from it," Quincy said.
Other undecided council members like Robert Lilligren also have concerns they'd like addressed before they make up their minds. One part of the plan Lilligren doesn't support is the proposed expansion of the food and liquor tax.
Lilligren's ward includes a lot of locally owned restaurants along the section of Nicollet Avenue known as Eat Street. He said the tax could present an extra burden on those businesses. He said he'll make up his mind after he reads through the whole proposal and gets some questions answered.
"I haven't seen the whole deal yet, so I don't quite understand what the benefits to my constituents might be," Lilligren said. "I would need to be convinced that there are rock solid and concrete benefits to my constituents."
It's possible that the stadium funding proposal will undergo some changes before it comes before the council. Rybak's spokesman says discussions between the mayor and council members are ongoing.
- Morning Edition, 05/11/2011, 7:50 a.m.